I want to talk about the International Association of Counseling Services' standard that they put in place for what the acceptable ratio of counselors to students is, what that is, what that means locally, what that means at the University of Houston, why does that matter and how do we fix it.
So first off the International Association of Counseling Services created this international standard that they put in place as sort of a gauge between what is the acceptable amount of counselors to students on a college campus. There are different recommendations based on college size, student density, so on and so forth.
On average though within the United States the ratio according to the IACS is one counselor should be available for every one thousand five hundred students.
So at first glance that still sounds really steep to me. One counselor available for every fifteen hundred students? So what if all 1,500 students need help in a day? That's not physically possible- let alone in a week...AND you'd only have one counselor available. At first glance it doesn't seem realistic. As somebody who is just listening in and reading about that statistic it seems a little "steep.".
Regardless though that is what the average standard/ ratio should be. So within the state of Texas the average ratio actually is one counselor available for every seventeen hundred students. At the University of Houston on average there is one counselor available for every two thousand seven hundred and twenty eight students.
Yeah that's a pretty big gap.
We're going from one counselor should be available for every fifteen hundred to one counselor is actually available for every two thousand seven hundred and twenty eight. That number is with the addition of FOUR more counselors in the past 24 months. So 24 months ago we were in a worse off position. That's just crazy to me-all the way around. That means that first of all the University of Houston is not even meeting what the acceptable national standard is for the availability of counselors to students. It IS nice that we have had four more counselors added to the University of Houston. That's awesome. That is such a stride in the right direction- but my question is why are we not just bridging the gap completely?
We just had a beautiful new medical school built (it's 2019 for perspective), a new medical program created on campus, we just had our stadium finished- it's beautiful. But WHY is there such a huge gap between being able to fund counselors? Especially within the past five years of five students having killed themselves on campus (and please correct me if I'm wrong but I think the total may be higher than this now)? (...one of which actually dying because of falling off of the stadium during its construction.).
Anyway my point is, we are making great strides as a university (speaking in terms of UH) to create an amazing environment for students and the community. But there is a massive gap still between the resources that should be available for students for mental health concerns and what is currently available.
It's interesting how far away we are from that gap. So what does that mean? Well it means first of all that there are students who potentially are going to need help and are not going to be able to be served.
The mental health resources at the University of Houston (it's referred to as CAPS, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, that what CAPS stands for) are run by Dr. Norma Ngo. She is an amazing individual. She does the absolute best that she can with the resources that she's been given. She's brilliant and I adore her and her work and I have an insane amount of admiration and respect for everything that she does. It's not her fault that we are not meeting that national standard. She has to work with what she's given through the university.
The utilization of mental health resources at UH from 2016 to 2017 increased by 60 percent. The utilization of mental health resources by students from 2017 to 2018 increased by over 80 percent.
So the problem is not that students are not trying to get help. The utilization of services on campus is increasing tenfold- students are trying to get help. The issue now is there's not enough supply to meet demand. There are not enough resources available to serve these students. I remember being a student at the University of Houston and there was a semester during my college career that I sought out seeing a counselor on campus and I wanted to go through that process of talking to somebody and seeing if I needed help.
Which is NORMAL. And I think everybody should do that.
I'll never forget though, that process was so frustrating because there was a time when I like actually needed to talk to somebody consistently and on a fairly kept schedule. There was never a situation where I could go the next week. That availability just didn't exist. I always had to schedule at least three to four weeks out. These are once a month meetings and that was if I was lucky. And then at the end of it, the wonderful lady that I met with was actually just there doing what I guess what would have been dubbed a residency or an internship. She was actually being cycled out. She wasn't a full time counselor.
So this relationship and connection I built with this staff member was for not when she had to transition out of the CAPS center.
I understand the logic behind working there and also pursuing your education and getting experience. I understand that, but from somebody who is being vulnerable and raw and sharing their story in an effort to be transparent and to receive some sort of healing and help- it's upsetting when you spend a semester with somebody (which is not that long) and come to find out you know the next summer session or winter session that person was just never gonna be there long term. And you don't know.
It's difficult, I know firsthand as a student, trying to get help because help is not always there first of all and helps not always available and the help changes.
So what is the solution?
Well this is kind of a gigantic solution that Grateful & Company is working to bring an awareness to but it's going to require a lot of people's help.
Mental health in the state of Texas is not state funded on university campuses. In fact at the University of Houston on the top things that benefactors are asked to donate to for the University, Mental Health is not on that list...
That doesn't make much sense to me.
In my mind the solution is rallying behind the resources that exist to be able to fund permanent counselors.
And if that's out of the question then the university putting together a plan to connect students who still need help with urgent resources: Who is available within the community? Can the university partner with mental health clinics around town and potentially negotiate lowered rates? Can they fund a portion of the sessions for students?
What can be done to bridge that gap?
Because the issue is not students admitting they need help. It's students being met with enough supply to meet the demand. Hope this brought you guys value wherever you're listening or watching your feedback is so appreciated. If you would give me a review or comment below or or write me a direct message whatever you feel most comfortable with I would love your feedback on the video format as well as the content. See if it's bringing you value and if you think it is insightful as always I'm so grateful for you guys. Stay tuned for more.